We were made to wait for Phoebe English – at least not for the presentation to start but for our chance to see each look up close. This season’s presentation showcased at the ICA Theatre space, an area transformed into a waiting room lined in a grey velvet backdrop, presented in grey scale if captured in a black and white photograph.
The models sat in all their Phoebe English glory waiting for their ticket to be called from the automated machine, for what seemed like a lifetime. The impatient atmosphere was self-perpetuating, but that was intentional. As they sat and waited, the models stared into space, others tilted there necks as if to relieve themselves from back cramp until they were called and their outfits adjusted. Phoebe describes this as “almost Sisyphean in nature”, referring to the many used tickets strewn across the floor that indicate that this “moment has already happened a million times over.”
Textiles and the attention to them is Phoebe English’s trademark, and for another season in the running do we see her clever use of contrasting textures at play. Silk returns again, this time hand torn in monochrome – the perfect base to contrast against more voluminous textures. English’s handmade textiles juxtaposed asymmetric garments that drape and hang off the contours of the body are matched against liquid plum latex (an unlikely addition to this season’s material mixing pot). Shredded sequins which act as a visual details as well as another texture agent enclose body parts, highlighting how English’s collections always have an unusual way of drawing attention and focusing on the body while simultaneously detracting attention from it all the same; with small but fanciful detail and loose, hanging shapes.
Upholding a classic autumn/winter palette of black, white, plum and midnight blue – this season also sees collaborations with English knitwear company – John Smedley – and Spanish company – Hereu – which worked with English on hand crafted leather shoes.
English’s waiting game marks her tenth season, and was more than simply a waiting room mock-up. Sticking around to take in each look a little bit longer than you usually would during your hectic schedule meant that you really had time to think about why it’s an issue having to wait in the first place. In many ways, it reflected fashion’s ceaseless consumer demands on designers and the need to work relentlessly around the clock to meet the modern fashion timeline – a timeline that some leading brands are steering away from in a bid to go at it alone. Whether intended or not, English takes back the power as a designer and delivers on her terms.
Check out more pics from the show below, and the rest of our London Fashion Week coverage.